Monkey studies important for brain science

May 15, 2008

Studies with non-human primates have made major contributions to our understanding of the brain and will continue to be an important, if small, part of neuroscience research, according to a recent review published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.

Authors John P. Capitanio, professor of psychology at UC Davis and associate director of the California National Primate Research Center, and Professor Marina E. Emborg at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center describe the importance of non-human primates in studies of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, neurological complications of AIDS and stress.

"The key contribution of these studies is based on the similarities between the brains of humans and those of non-human primates," said Capitanio, who studies animal behavior. Human and monkey brains show similar organization and structure, and the animals show complex behavior that can be compared to human behavior. However, he said, several complicating factors will always limit the number of animals used, including the financial expense, ethical issues and the relative difficulty of breeding compared to other model animals such as rodents.

All animal models have their strengths and limitations, Capitanio said. But just as a model building helps engineers and architects understand how a structure will work, animal models can help researchers understand body systems.

For example, the drug MPTP -- first synthesized in an illegal drug laboratory -- causes symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease in both humans and monkeys, but not in rats or mice, which lack a crucial enzyme. Researchers are now studying monkeys treated with MPTP to better understand new treatments for Parkinson's disease -- the second most common neurodegenerative disease in people over 65.

"A model is not the real thing, but it can help you understand the real thing," Capitanio said.

Source: University of California - Davis

Explore further: Amgen misses 1Q views as higher costs cut profit

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study links California drought to global warming

28 minutes ago

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...

Genome yields insights into golden eagle vision, smell

37 minutes ago

Purdue and West Virginia University researchers are the first to sequence the genome of the golden eagle, providing a bird's-eye view of eagle features that could lead to more effective conservation strategies.

Recommended for you

Amgen misses 1Q views as higher costs cut profit

Apr 22, 2014

Despite higher sales, biotech drugmaker Amgen's first-quarter profit fell 25 percent as production and research costs rose sharply, while the year-ago quarter enjoyed a tax benefit. The company badly missed ...

Valeant, Ackman make $45.6B Allergan bid

Apr 22, 2014

Valeant Pharmaceuticals and activist investor Bill Ackman have unveiled details of their offer to buy Botox maker Allergan, proposing a cash-and-stock deal that could be worth about $45.6 billion.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Autism Genome Project delivers genetic discovery

A new study from investigators with the Autism Genome Project, the world's largest research project on identifying genes associated with risk for autism, has found that the comprehensive use of copy number variant (CNV) genetic ...

Team reprograms blood cells into blood stem cells in mice

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have reprogrammed mature blood cells from mice into blood-forming hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), using a cocktail of eight genetic switches called transcription factors. The reprogrammed ...

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...